Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Elena Kats-Chernin studied music in Moscow, Sydney and Hannover.
She has created works across nearly every genre, from intimate compositions for piano to pieces for chamber ensembles, full-scale choir and symphony orchestras as well as ballets and operas. Her music was used at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, 2003 Rugby World Cup and 2018 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. She is a recipient of many prestigious prizes including Green Room, Helpmann, Limelight, Sounds Australian, Sydney Theatre and Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards. In 2019 she was accorded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), one of the country’s highest honours.
The extraordinary reach of Elena Kats-Chernin’s music also spans the worlds of film and television. Eliza Aria, from her score for Meryl Tankard’s ballet Wild Swans (commissioned by The Australian Ballet), was used by British bank Lloyds TSB in their celebrated ad campaign ‘For The Journey’. Her Russian Rag was used in the claymation feature film Mary and Max, by Oscar-winning director Adam Elliot. Both pieces have featured as the theme for ‘Late Night Live’ on ABC Radio National. Her 10-hour adaptation of The Monteverdi Trilogy at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Barrie Kosky, was broadcast live across Europe in 2012. She was also featured in Creative Minds, a six-part TV portrait documentary series by Robin Hughes.
Her music has been used for ballet productions by Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet Theatre Munich, San Francisco Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet. In 2015 Elena Kats-Chernin’s children’s opera Schneewittchen und die 77 Zwerge (Snow White and the 77 Dwarves) was premiered at the Komische Oper Berlin and her widely praised episodic opera The Divorce was watched by more than one million viewers on ABC TV. This pioneering work, with libretto by Joanna Murray-Smith, was commissioned by Opera Australia and featured artists such as Kate Miller-Heidke, Lisa McCune, Marina Prior and Meow Meow.
Kats-Chernin commissioned works have been toured nationally by the Australian Chamber Orchestra; for Musica Viva’s concerts with mandolin player, Avi Avital; for Introdans tour of the Netherlands and Germany with her Picasso-inspired Three Dancers. Her third piano concerto, Lebewohl, written for renowned pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska, was performed with both the Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras (with Cislowska as soloist) and recorded by ABC Classic FM.
In 2019, Kats-Chernin’s opera Iphis was premiered in Hannnover. Her harpsichord concerto Ancient Letters received its UK premiere in Liverpool with Mahan Esfahani. Her mainstage opera, Whiteley, on the life of renowned artist Brett Whiteley with libretto by Justin Fleming for Opera Australia, was premiered at the Sydney Opera House with other performances for Sydney Festival, Queensland Music Festival and Four Winds Festival (NSW).